Press Releases

    14 December 2004

    Secretary-General, Addressing National Foreign Trade Council, Stresses Close Link Between Multilateral Trade, Security Frameworks

    He Calls for Changes to Closed-Door Decision-Making in Barrier-Laden World Trading System

    NEW YORK, 13 December (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s address to the National Foreign Trade Council in New York on Friday, 10 December 2004:

    It is a pleasure to be with you tonight with my wife.  I have wanted to speak to the National Foreign Trade Council for quite some time now.  I am glad we were able to make it happen this year, since this is an important moment for the global trade agenda and for my own agenda of change at the United Nations.

    Before I proceed, let me also congratulate Mr. Raymond Gilmartin. I recall our first meeting to discuss how we can get pharmaceutical products to the poor.  I argued that we needed to find ways to get medication to the poor.  When I travelled to Botswana, I met with people who were sick and who could not afford to buy medicine.  They would ask you:  “How can I get medication?”  Ray is one of those who responded to the call and you could not find a better man to honour tonight.  It would be hard to find, beyond this room tonight, a more compelling combination of technological know-how, managerial savvy, entrepreneurial energy and sheer international reach.  But you are not only some of the world’s leading employers and most prominent symbols of globalization.  You are also key partners of the United Nations.

    The relationship between business and the United Nations has had its ups and downs over the years.  In recent years, confrontation and ideological rivalry have given way to cooperation and mutual regard.  The United Nations has developed a great appreciation for the unrivalled capacity of business to create jobs, opportunity and wealth.  And the business community has acknowledged the immense value of the work done by the United Nations system to promote health and literacy, to rebuild countries torn by conflict -- and not least, to set the standards and provide the so-called soft-infrastructure that make global commerce possible.

    Many businesses and investment analysts have also recognized the importance of corporate citizenship for their reputations with consumers, for the morale of their own employees, and for managing risk.  With that in mind, hundreds of major companies from around the world -- including nearly a dozen of you here tonight -- have joined the United Nations Global Compact, a voluntary corporate social responsibility initiative focused on the environment, labour, human rights and anti-corruption.  One of the Compact’s goals is to help preserve the open global trading system that you care so deeply about and as you know, it is to give globalization a human face to avoid a backlash in society.

    That brings me to the first of the two agendas on which I would like to appeal for your support tonight -- the Doha agenda of trade negotiations.

    The United Nations is committed to an equitable, open, predictable, rule-based multilateral trading system.  When you hear people emphasize the importance of trade, chances are they are citing United Nations statistics and analysis showing how trade helps people raise their standards of living and lift themselves out of poverty.  The poor would rather trade themselves out of poverty.  When you hear it said that trade is better than aid, that is very much a United Nations slogan, too -- though of course we believe firmly that aid is also necessary.

    But the world’s trading system is not what it could or should be.  There are too many barriers, and too much closed-door decision-making.  Subsidies that rich countries give to their own producers tilt the playing field against the poor.  Significant changes are needed if all people are to realize the potential benefits of trade.

    Good news has emerged from the Doha negotiations in recent months.  Much is riding on a successful, speedy outcome, including our ability to achieve the Millennium Development Goals set by all world leaders in 2000.  It is easy to be sceptical about such targets, for example the goal of cutting hunger in half by the year of 2015, reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS, eradicate poverty, ensure environmental sustainability, international solidarity and cooperation in pushing development ahead.  These goals are achievable.  For the first time, we have a development framework.  But the truth is that the Goals have proven invaluable in getting all the major development players to work together, and are bringing real results.  You, too, need a successful Doha round.  We should be able to work together to make it happen.

    Trade and development are crucial for security.  But just as we need to rebuild faith in the multilateral trade framework, so do we need to strengthen the multilateral security framework.  The Millennium Development Goals represent an agreement by all, as I said earlier, rich and poor alike, on how to grow economies and achieve development.  No such consensus exists on how to make the world more secure.  And in the last few years, things have if anything gotten worse in this regard.  In just a short while, we saw a moment of global solidarity against terrorism in 2001 quickly replaced by acrimonious arguments over the war in Iraq.  This in turn reflected deeper divisions on some fundamental questions facing the world community, for example about the use of force and how to protect ourselves against terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and other threats.

    One year ago, I appointed a panel of 16 distinguished men and women to assess the threats facing humanity today, and recommend changes in both our policies and our institutions in order to meet those threats.  General Brent Scowcroft, known to you all, was a very active member of the panel.

    Last week, the panel delivered its report, entitled “A more secure world:  our shared responsibility”.  One of its key messages is that we live in a world of inter-connected threats and mutual vulnerability between rich and poor, and weak and strong.  No country can afford to deal with today’s threats alone, and no threat can be dealt with effectively unless other threats are addressed at the same time.  And to do this, we need global policies, and global institutions, which are efficient and effective.  The United Nations is a vital instrument, and is often undervalued.  But it needs change -- perhaps radical change -- if it is to meet the challenges to come.

    The report is actually the start of a process that will culminate in a summit meeting of heads of State at the United Nations next September.  That summit must be more than a stock-taking exercise.  It must produce real change in our approach to collective security -- and in the United Nations itself.  The debate ahead on the panel’s 101 recommendations promises to be lively, since it touches on some of the toughest issues that divide us.  I urge you to make your voices heard.

    These two agendas are closely linked.  Development, spurred on by trade, is the indispensable foundation of collective security.  And effective collective security creates the stable environment that societies -- and businesses -- need in order to thrive.  Ultimately both you and we at the United Nations are vitally concerned with managing and mitigating risk.  Let us work together to confront the real and present dangers that lie in wait for us, and to seize the opportunities for a safer, more just world.

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